"Few are the mice that can escape a keen feline eye" (inspired by my mother,
Patricia, a lover of both mysteries AND cats). |
Twiddle delicately twirled the crimson contents of the glass he held, almost
daintily grasping the stem in his gray silk-gloved hands, watching intently
for the slightest film on the surface of the liquid. Then he lifted the
glass to his nose and gave an almost catlike sniff, immediately wrinkling
his nose in distaste at the barest hint of bitter almond. As he'd thought...
poison... cyanide, most likely.
He looked up at the soft sound of chuckling, spying the beat cops in the
corner of the darkened apartment living room, who were apparently finding
some humor in watching his handling of the wine glass, his mannerisms.
They most likely thought him gay, as did many of the crude, uninitiated
Neanderthals he found himself interacting with in the course of his
investigative work. They were, of course, sadly mistaken. For Sylvester
Twiddle did not, as some thought, prefer the company of men; nor the company
of women, for that matter. No, Twiddle's preferences were less
commonplace, less pedestrian, practically regal, in fact... for Twiddle liked cats.
Persians, to be exact: Cynthia and Natasha. Long, soft, silky white hair,
with soft, warm purrs; a joy to curl up with on a cold winter's night. And
if he did sometimes walk with a somewhat light, feline stalk, or
occasionally lick his hand to smooth back his hair, or even...
"Hrrrrmmmmph..." His assistant, Detective Miles Standing, softly cleared his throat, interrupting Twiddle's feline reverie. "Perhaps the inspector would like to examine the body before it's taken awa-?"
Miles stopped talking, startled, as always, by the quick jerk of the
inspector's head, the tightened gaze, fixated on some point in a dark corner
of the room. Slowly, with almost catlike grace, the inspector stalked
towards the corner, crouched, and snatched something small off the floor. He then returned to his assistant's side and dangled his prize in front of the
detective's eyes... a small rubber cork.
"Quite lucky, don't you think, Miles? Had this been an older, traditional
cork, the chances of lifting off any fingerprints would've been practically
nonexistent. No need to examine the body, I think... We merely have to find
the tall, graying gentleman in work boots whose fingerprints adorn this
Somewhat nonplused by the inspector's words, the detective couldn't help but
ask, "What makes you think we're looking for a tall, graying man in work
Inspector Twiddle's eyes raised slightly at the corners and his mouth
tightened into a thin and somewhat self-satisfied smile, preparing to
divulge the particular 'canary' he'd just caught. "Perhaps you noticed the
somewhat meticulous nature of the victim? How everything in this apartment
is arranged perfectly, not a cushion out of place, every magazine stacked
neatly, each picture exactly straight?" He elegantly waved his gloved hand
around the room as spoke, emphasizing his observations.
"And yet, look at this coat rack. One loose hook, at the top, left
un-symmetrically askew, as if recently used by someone tall, and
un-straightened afterwards? And the next hook, slightly less ajar, from the
lesser weight of a hat perhaps, and a telltale black and gray hair left
hanging on the hook? And finally, on the floor below the rack, the
distinctive waffle-shaped footprint of a work boot?"
Detective Standing shook his head in mild bemusement, impressed as always
with the sharp eyes of the unconventional Twiddle. "Then I suppose you won't be surprised to hear that the super mentioned an ex-boyfriend matching that same general description? Says they broke up maybe a week or so ago; or so
he assumed, as they supposedly had a big, noisy blowout that night and the
guy hasn't been seen around since. I'll have the footprint photographed, and I
will send the hair and the cork to the lab."
"Yes," the inspector responded, "but let's hold on to that cork until we
visit the wine shop I espied next door when I arrived."
* * * * * * * * *
Miles waited impatiently for the inspector to exit the rest room located at the back of the store. When he finally did return, the detective was once again disconcerted by the odd way that Twiddle shook off his hands, almost
as if he were shaking errant bits of gravel from his, uh, paws?
They approached the shop keeper, displayed their badges, and then proffered the bagged rubber cork.
"Hmmmm... yeah, I sell this... a mid-priced Zinfandel, San Joaquin
Valley... pretty popular... just sold a case of it yesterday afternoon, as a
matter of fact."
"Mind if we ask whom to?" detective Standing asked.
"Yeah, sure... it was to that pharmacist.... the one on the corner. Guy buys maybe a case every other week.... has for years.... hate to guess
what HIS liver looks like with how much of the stuff the guy seems to put
away," the shop keeper ended with an unkind chuckle.
"Yes, well, can you describe him?"
"Sure.... About six foot three, black hair, turning kinda gray, maybe
thirty-eight, forty years old?"
"Thanks for your help, my good man," said the inspector. "We'll be back
if we have any other questions..."
* * * * * * * * *
The pharmacist was a tall man to be sure, tall and nervous. From the
moment they displayed their badges, he seemed to be in almost constant
movement; a hand-flutter here, a twitch there, an almost furtive shuffling
of feet. The slight flutters and twitches seemed to fascinate the
inspector, whose eyes appeared to follow every movement.
"Yeah, well, since when's it against the law to buy wine?"
Inspector Twiddle's eyes locked on the pharmacist's face. "We were just up
the street, at 127, Apartment 2C..." The almost painful twitch around the
eyes, just at the right moment. The inspector's eyes narrowed, becoming
almost feral. He nodded slightly to detective Standing.
"Sir, could you just step around the counter for a moment, please?" the
The tall man in the white coat slowly, cautiously stepped out from behind
the counter as instructed. Twiddle's eyes immediately dropped to the floor,
and the expected pair of work boots...
The inspector's eyes relaxed slightly, one lowering in almost a lazy wink.
Miles had seen that look before... the slight relaxation, the almost
imperceptible wink, followed by a tightening of the haunches, a baring of
teeth, a soft, violent hiss, and then....
"This way, Sir!" The detective quickly grabbed and handcuffed the pharmacist
in one quick movement, directing him away from the inspector and attempting
to ignore the frustration in the inspector's eyes, or the shudder he felt
running down his spine.